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16 Pentecost, Year B: Death Unto Life

SUNDAY’S READINGS | September 12, 2021

Prov. 1:20-33 or Isa. 50:4-9a
Ps. 19 or Wis. 7:26-81 or Ps. 116:1-8

James 3:1-12
Mark 8:27-3

The confession of St. Peter is no indication that Peter possesses special knowledge or privilege in and of himself. He indeed is the first to say of Jesus, “You are the Christ,” but he is also quick to deny the necessity of Jesus’s suffering and, by implication, the need to share in the cross of Christ. So, he speaks correctly but without sufficient understanding. St. Matthew’s version of Peter’s confession leaves no doubt that the confession itself is a gift from God, not a unique insight of St. Peter. “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). If we may speak of a Petrine privilege, it is the privilege of receiving a gift. This same gift is offered to anyone anywhere who comes to faith. “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh or the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Now, here is the gift — not merely a confession of words, but a deed that scandalized the Jews and seemed like foolishness to the Greeks. “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31). Christian faith is faith in the crucified and risen Lord. Indeed, we know the Lord as truly risen only if we know him first as crucified and our lives crucified in him.

Jesus is the new humanity who endures the death of the Old Adam, so that sin and death no longer have dominion over him or his children. We, the children of God, are caught up in this mystery. We each take up our cross, and we die with Christ. “Do you not know,” St. Paul asks, “that all of us who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). “We know,” St. Paul continues, that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and that we too might no longer be enslaved to sin” (Rom. 6:6-7). The old self, the ego, the body of sin, every manner of depravity and destruction, are all put to death on the cross.

We die; we no longer live. Jesus died on the cross, and we died with him. He died for us, but not instead of us. Dying in union with him, we undergo what Karl Barth called “the vast negation beyond which by grace we stand” (Commentary on Romans). Or, as St. Paul says, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ is our life. We have no other.

Here is a glimpse of new life in Christ. Christ is the Wisdom of God. He is perfect; he revives the soul, is sure and just, rejoices the heart, and gives light to the eyes. He endures and is true, is righteous, and bestows riches. He enlightens, offers great rewards, and makes us friends of God. He is more beautiful than the sun and excels every constellation of the stars (Ps. 19:7-11; Wis. 7:27-29). He is all in all. He is our life and salvation.

Look It Up: The Collect

Think About It: Only a contrite and broken heart can be led by the Spirit.


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